Monday, 3 August 2009

Seaford Kittiwake Colony

Down on the south coast of England is a small seaside town called Seaford and its main claim to fame from spring to summer is a large colony of Kittiwakes. Kittiwakes normally live far out to sea, but return to land to lay one or two eggs on a precarious cliff ledge nest.

Adult and young Kittiwakes on their nests

At the far end of the sea front road are the beginnings of the chalk cliffs that ultimately become the Seven Sisters. A large colony of Kittiwakes have adopted this as their breeding colony. Being so close to Splash Point gives some wonderful photo opportunities, which with any luck I'll be including on the itinerary of one of my UK Photo Walks workshops next season.

An adult Kittiwake in flight, taken from the cliff top above the colony

If you're patient there's normally plenty of activity during the day as the birds are continually feeding. They do fly past at a fair rate, but with some practiced panning technique you can capture some quite spectacular frames. For the more daring among you, venture to the top of the cliff where you may be able to get some closer shots of the Kittiwakes in flight or on their precarious nests.

What you watching me!
100 - 400 mm L IS f5.6 zoom + 1.4 x teleconvertor
on Manfrotto 755MF3 with 460 MG magnesium pan/tilt head
A surprisingly stable combination considering the light weight of the tripod and head!

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have staff and volunteers at the site (normally) from early July through early August, as part of their A Date With Nature scheme. The aim of the scheme is to give people the opportunity to see wildlife first hand. The RSPB supply spotting scopes and binoculars so you can see the birds, and in my experience the staff and volunteers are great communicators with a love of their subject.

Unusually for Seaford the sun was shining! The last time I was there I needed my trusty Kata Rain & Elements Cover E702 with the E704 extension kit but not this time. Had I been closer the salt spray, then yes. Fine salt spray presents more of a danger to your precious camera gear than you imagine. Salt is corrosive, it eats into things. If you do go near the sea on a windy day you'll notice a thin film of salt coating your gear and especially the protective filter on the front element of your lens. When you go near the sea, a protective filter is essential - damage the filter and it's relatively inexpensive to replace. Damage the front element of your lens and you're talking a three figure repair bill - not good!

Care is also needed when cleaning your gear after exposure to salt spray. I tend to use the "breath on the lens and wipe with a soft, well washed cotton hankie" technique, instead of my micro fibre lens pen. Any salt deposits will transfer to the cleaning material and pollute it for future use! Also, keep separate cleaning material for your lenses and camera bodies.

TTFN

Ian

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